This is the second of the Smart Hospitality Networks blogs series, where we explore the requirements of a stellar hotel’s Wi-Fi
According to all surveys and trends in the hospitality industry hotel Wi-Fi is now a basic amenity, and not a luxury commodity. And not only for guests, but for hotel staff as well, who have growing expectations from it. But behind that nice welcome portal and seamless wi-fi you experience in the hotels you visit, there is a lot of technical consideration and deployment work. So I had a talk with our Hospitality Network expert Ana Mata who takes us in the hotel wi-fi backstage, unveiling how it's built, deployed and how it impacts the actual hotel business.
What expectations do users have from the hotel Wi-Fi?
CG: Hi Ana. Everybody talks about the guest expectations in terms of wi-fi, we see it eveywhere in industry studies and events. But are these the same across all segments and properties? And are all the hotel teams's requirements the same?
AM: ALE experts have installed thousands of hotel networks around the world over the last twenty years, and the requirements may vary from a requestor or user to another, from a property to another, but the big lines are quite similar. Some essential requirements keep coming back in our hospitality projects:
- Guests want to be able to log into the hotel network right after check-in and move around the hotel premises without losing Wi-Fi connectivity, quality or speed
- Hotel team leaders may want to offer enterprise-grade Wi-Fi everywhere within the hotel premises to guests and staff, and will look for a captive portal solution to be able to manage thedifferent profiles connecting to the network
- The hotel staff may want to be able to manage guest user accounts quickly and easily, and have access to the hotel applications and tools wherever and whenever they need to use them
- The hotel IT team are interested in security, integration and deployment simplicity
- The hotel guest experience team and the marketing team care about the alignment with the brand promise and the general guest experience
CG: So the hotel Wi-Fi solution needs to equally address all these requirements to create overall satisfaction.
What about the Wi-Fi network access?
Hoteliers can select how they want to provide access to the Wi-Fi network. However, it’s essential that all means of access are easy and secure. Today, there are several options:
- An entry level, embedded portal and landing page with simple login/password like the one we offer in Alcatel-Lucent OmniAccess® Stellar Express
- An advanced proprietary customizable captive portal, with various guest credential creation and access methods, such as the OmniAccess Stellar Enterprise
- Or external captive portals, that ideally integrate with the hotel Wi-Fi solution in a non-disruptive way, and leverage in-depth profile management, CRM and PMS integration capabilities, to protect the existing investments
- Guests should be able to log in through their favorite social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter or Google
Are there some must-have requirements in wi-fi connectivity today?
AM: An essential capability of a secure hotel Wi-Fi is to provide seamless connectivity with differentiated access rights and services to the different users. This is done via native unified access and user network profile management in our LAN and WLAN solutions. These differentiating capabilities enable the hotel staff to connect to the network, useto the corporate applications and tools, everywhere, via wired or wireless connection, and with maximum security, in a different VLAN than the guests.
Another important aspect is a consistent guest experience, regardless of where they are and the device that they are using. A hotel Wi-Fi should feature state-of-the-art Wi-Fi technology, distributed intelligence and fast roaming. It should guarantee pervasive mobility around the hotel premises, without losing the connection while retaining Wi-Fi speed and quality, independently of the guest’s location. The guests can be in their room, indoors or outdoors, or in a crowded area with many people connected to the hotel network at the same time.
In order to ensure a consistent experience in the different hotel spaces (rooms, common areas, high density areas such as auditoriums or conference rooms, or the backoffice), hotels need a complete and versatile AP (hotspot) family including adapted hospitality APs dedicated for the rooms. The access point family should provide entry-level to high performance as well as high-density AP models to cover every in-door environment, and ruggedized -- hardened -- AP models for outdoor areas.
CG: I understood sometimes the hotel building or large facilities can be challenging during wi-fi deployments.
AM: We have a recent example in Norway, at the Scandic Central Elverum Hotel, a newly renovated hotel building with massive concrete walls. The hotel needed a solution to offer free reliable Wi-Fi throughout the building for up to 1000 guests and conference attendees at any given time. Today, Scandic has one consistent network, centrally controlled. The solution was thouroughly designed and with sufficient AP coverage to offer excellent user experience in spite of the thick walls, and with high density access points for strong ubiquitous Wi-Fi to allow a large number of simultaneous connections in conference rooms. The network solution also enables IPTV in guest rooms, HVAC and hotel cash registers, as well as other WLAN connected devices such as the sound system.
Read more details about the wi-fi deployment at Scandic Central Elverum
Hotel wi-fi can, and should be thought as a business asset
CG: So a hotel wi-fi can generate new revenue!
AM: For hotels that offer conference facilities suitable for large capacities of several hundreds or thousands of concurrent attendees, a high-quality Wi-Fi service for their guests and conference attendees is a business asset and it is a direct revenue generator. Consequently, a fluid experience is a must-have.
Stay tuned for the next Hospitality Networks interview. If you have questions or want a deeper discussion on hospitality networks, don't hesitate to contact Ana Mata!
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